A cleaner, greener way to fresh breath

Photo: istockphoto.com/Carole Gomez
How's your breath? Nothing derails romance quicker than a malodorous mouth. But, before you grab that brightly coloured, drugstore mouthwash, think again! The very stuff you're sloshing around in your mouth in pursuit of oral freshness might actually be doing more harm than good! Minty taste of fresh chemicals Forget about those breath mints and gum. Most are full of artificial sweeteners and chemicals only offer temporary relief at best. While some work better than others, they are only masking the problem. Colour me bad The bright blues and greens that make mouthwashes sparkle in their plastic bottles, include FD&C Blue 1 and FD&C Green 3 for example – chemical dyes that have been shown to be carcinogenic. Just as nasty are FD&C Yellow 5 and FD&C Yellow 6: some studies have indicated that they cause cancer when applied to the skin. Besides artificial flavours and colours, mouthwash has also been shown to contain formaldehyde and sodium lauryl sulfate. Drunken mouths Most mainstream mouthwashes also contain alcohol which can dry your mouth out. When your saliva glands are dry, they aren't as effective at washing away the bacteria that causes bad breath –so instead of making it better, mouthwash may make actually make it worse! Products with an alcohol content of higher than 25 per cent have also been shown to contribute to cancers of the mouth, tongue and throat when used regularly. Green and clean Companies like Tom's of Maine and Jason make alcohol-free products with ingredients like witch hazel and aloe vera juice, so they'll leave your mouth feeling fresh, naturally! Mouthwash that contains chlorophyll is another good option: it will neutralize odours while cleansing the colon and blood. Homemade juice You can also try making your own by infusing antiseptic herbs like cloves, rosemary and myrrh in boiling water and leaving it to steep overnight. Strain it in the morning, and voila! Morning breath be gone! Hygiene is sexy Ultimately though, mouthwash won't really wash away bad breath. It only masks it for the short term. If you've got a recurring case of halitosis, you'll need to get to the root of the problem. Make sure you maintain good oral hygiene and that means brushing and flossing after every meal to keep nasty-smelling bacteria from building up in your mouth. Watch your tongue Be sure to give you tongue a gentle scrub with your toothbrush or a scraper while you're at it. Also drink lots of water every day to keep your mouth from becoming a dried-up bacteria breeding ground. And if you still can't shake the bad breath, you may have a more serious problem that needs some attention – severe tooth decay, gum disease or digestive problems. Find the perfect toothbrush and best toothpaste for fresh breath. Meredith Dault is a journalist based in Halifax with fresh breath and a green toothbrush.